Drugs for livestock harm human health

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Monday, June 4, 2012
This is among commentaries submitted to The Gazette from students at Janesville’s Craig and Parker high schools who did field studies in either Washington, D.C., or Madison in Advanced Placement U.S. government courses taught by Joe Van Rooy.

Sick animals must be treated, but the meat industry is misusing antibiotics.

In recent cases, subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics have been given to animals to increase weight, feed efficiency and profit. Large demands for eggs, meat and milk drive this operation, but it’s humans who lose in the long run, regardless of their glorious profits.

When antibiotics for human illnesses get administered to animals in small doses over time, living bacteria in animals become resistant to the drugs. If a human ingests improperly cooked meat containing this resistant bacterium and falls ill, he/she probably won’t get better with the antibiotics that previously worked.

Cindy Roberts from the Center for Science in the Public Interest explains, “Once you start injecting human drugs into animals and humans get sick, what was once easy to treat can kill people.”

One classic example of this phenomenon is in chickens. Fluoroquinolones have been used to treat food-borne illness since 1986, but not until 1995 did previously rare fluoroquinolone-resistant bacteria increase, coincidentally when the FDA approved this antibiotic in chickens’ water. The FDA estimates that this subtherapeutic dosage was behind over 11,000 people contracting a strain of illness resistant to the fluoroquinolones.

Sarah Borron of Food & Water Watch suggests, “Regulations on the preservation of antibiotics must be implemented and adhered to if we don’t want backtracking of medical progress.”

Indeed, meat product packaging should warn consumers of the animal’s antibiotic history until regulations are tightened to stop subtherapeutic doses in the meat industry.

Last updated: 8:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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